Are the issues of poverty, the lack of English as a first language and the fact that a student is labeled as a Special Education Student reasons why we, in America have many school systems that are experiencing static or regressive achievement results?
Does it matter how educators approach the reality of today’s students?
Can schools make a difference – or are the influences of families with little prior success with education, poverty and complicated circumstance of life in this decade forces that outweigh the potential of schools to positively impact achievement?
Douglas B. Reeves makes many very important points and reveals important information in his book The Learning Leader: How to Focus School Improvement for Better Results, 2006.
Specifically, he states, on page 75, that “Researchers are so intent on looking for relationships that we fail to recognize the importance of the absence of a relationship. The following statistics may be the most important inference from the data thus far. When the issue is the impact of student characteristics on gains in student performance, the following relationships are telling:
Poverty (Free/Reduced Lunch)” R2* = .00
English Language Learners: R2 = .00
Individualized Education Plan: R2 = .01
While it is true that student characteristics influence student proficiency, it is absolutely not true that student characteristics influence the opportunity for school leaders and educators to influence gains in student achievement.”
Reeves goes on to report on page 76: “Here is the finding of the research: If you believe that adults make a difference in student achievement, you are right. If you believe that adults are helpless bystanders while demographic characteristics work their inexorable will on the academic lives of students. You are right. Both statements become self-fulfilling prophesies.”
He also reminds us, on the same page, of the Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) studies on the influence of expectations on student achievement. Their hypothesized “Pygmalion Effect,” named after the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, suggested “that even when two groups of students had similar characteristics, the high expectations of a teacher caused students to rise to those expectations. Conversely, the low expectations of a teacher resulted in students falling to those lowered expectations. The PIM* research suggests a Pygmalion Effect for adults.”
* First Note: R2 is an indication of the relationship between two variables. A value of 1.0 would yield a perfect relationship. For example, a gain in one unit of student wealth is related to a gain of one unit of student achievement. A relationship of zero indicates that there is no relationship between the two variables. (The Learning Leader page 74)
*Second Note: PIM is an acronym for Planning, Implementation, and Monitoring. The data for this study were provided by Nevada’s Clark County School District, one of the largest school systems in the United States. With over 280,000 students, Clark County is also one of the fastest-growing school districts and changes every year in size and complexity. Now a “majority-minority” district, with a majority of its students who are members of ethnic minorities, Clark County includes schools that have some of the nation’s highest-performing students and schools in challenging urban setting that contain profoundly disadvantaged students. Despite this complexity, the district leaders have provided a coherent and consistent planning and accountability system. (The Learning Leader pages 65 & 66)
So . . . Are the issues of poverty, the lack of English as a first language and the fact that a student is labeled as a Special Education Student reason why we, in America have many school systems that are experiencing static or regressive achievement results?
So . . . Does it matter how educators approach the reality of today’s students?
So . . . Can Schools make a difference – or are the influences of families with little prior success with education, poverty and complicated circumstance of life in this decade forces that outweigh the potential of schools to positively impact achievement?